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Balanced Diet Advice - What is a Balanced Eating-Plan for Good Health and Nutrition

A Balanced Diet

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What is a Balanced Diet?

According to the US Dietary Guidelines, a balanced diet includes a variety of foods from all 5 food groups. It should provide enough calories to ensure a desirable weight and should include all the necessary daily nutrients. For details, see below.

For details of the latest diet advice, click Dietary Guidelines, Diet and Weight, Health and Diet. See also: Healthy Diet, Healthy Eating, Healthy Diet Plan and Diet Foods

Fig 1. The 5 Basic Food Groups

Group Foods included Daily servings Nutrition
Grains Breakfast cereals, muesli, rice, pasta, bread, oats, noodles, and all other foods made from flour and grains. Best are less refined types.  6-11 servings Good sources of starchy carbohydrates, fiber, plus calcium, iron and B vitamins. Very filling and low in fat.
Vegetables Includes fresh, frozen or canned, & blended vegetable juice drinks.
Best: spinach, cabbage, bean sprouts, peas, carrots, broccoli, peppers, leeks potatoes onions, garlic, tomatoes
4 servings Good sources of antioxidant vitamins A & C, folates, fiber and some carbohydrates. Very low in fat and calories.
Fruits Includes fresh, frozen or canned plus blended 100% fruit drinks.
Best: strawberries, grapes, kiwis, pineapple blackcurrants oranges, lemons, grapefruit, peaches, apricots. 
3-4 servings Good sources of antioxidant vitamins A & C, folates, fiber and some carbohydrates. Very low in fat and calories.
Meat & dairy Fish, all meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts.
: any fish (esp. oily fish), turkey, free range chicken, lean beef, free range eggs, low fat dairy products, fat free milk and lower fat cheese.
2-3 servings
You should try to eat at least two portions of fish per week
Lean red meat contains
a wide variety of
essential nutrients.
Doctors advise us to
eat less red meat and
more oily fish.
Sugars & fats All sugars, oils, butter, margarine, cream.
: choose unrefined oils which are low in saturated fat, unrefined sugar and low fat spread low fat soft margarine.
Tiny amounts
Good source of
essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K.

A Good Combination of Foods for a Balanced Diet

The healthiest combination for a balanced diet is low fat, low refined carb + healthy carbs + moderate protein. For example, as a general rule:

  • About 50 percent of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates
  • About 20 percent should come from protein.
  • About 30 percent should come from all fat. (Of this, a max. of one third may be saturated fat).

Fig 2. What constitutes a serving

Food group What constitutes an approximate serving
Grains 1 slice bread - half a muffin - half bowl cereal - 4oz/100g cooked rice/pasta.
Vegetables 4oz/100g cooked/raw vegetables - 8oz/200g leafy green vegetables - glass vegetable juice.
Fruits 1 medium fresh fruit - 4oz canned fruit - 6 dried apricots - glass fruit juice.
Meat & dairy  2-3oz/50-75g cooked lean meat/fish/poultry - 2 eggs - 7oz/175g tofu - half cup nuts/seeds.
1 cup milk/yogurt - 1oz cheddar cheese - 4oz cottage cheese - 4oz ice-cream/frozen yogurt. 
Sugars & fats Ideally use fat free sprays for cooking. Use only light covering of spread on bread.

Do you need supplements on a balanced diet?

No. If you lead a relatively normal life and follow a balanced diet, you won't need supplements. However, if you are unable to eat properly, or if you are ill, under stress or in need of extra nutrients, it may be prudent to supplement your diet with a multi-vitamin & mineral tablet. However, this should be a short term measure only. Supplements should not be used as a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet.

How many calories do you need?

To find out your individual calorie needs, click Calorie Guidelines.


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